Capitol news bureau
August 16, 2012
Members of the LSU Board of Supervisors are scheduled to spend about eight hours Saturday discussing their search for the next system president.
One topic likely to come up during the retreat will be whether to merge the system president and main campus chancellor positions.
“The board needs to define exactly what they want and then make a decision,” interim LSU System President William Jenkins said noting the wide disparity in responsibilities between the two positions.
Board President Hank Danos has said the possibility of hiring one person to handle both jobs is in play as the board tries to make the system more efficient.
Bobby Yarborough, an LSU board member, said the body that governs LSU would be focused on finding a new leader at the retreat and over the next few months.
Additionally, the board has hired the Washington, D.C.,-based AGB Consulting firm to collect input on the type of leader best suited for LSU. Board members say they expect AGB to report on the feasibility of a job merger, among other things, at this weekend’s retreat.
AGB representatives were in Baton Rouge in late June interviewing faculty, deans and alumni as part of the search. The firm came to Baton Rouge in 2006 to help with a previous presidential search. During that process, the idea of consolidating the two positions was also discussed.
At the State Capitol and on LSU’s campus, however, speculation has heated up as higher education observers try to handicap who has the inside track on the job.
Among the names floated so far by alumni and faculty are former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and political commentator Cokie Roberts. Secretary for the Louisiana Department of Economic Development Stephen Moret’s name has come up as one of the more-persistent rumors of the spring and summer.
Moret is one of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s closest advisers. Jindal has appointed 15 out of the 16 members of the LSU board, including campaign contributors, his top legislative lobbyist and a former campaign treasurer.
Moret, who did not agree to a phone interview Monday, praised LSU in an email for having a “transformational impact” on his life while brushing aside talk of becoming the university’s next president.
“I’m excited about the economic development opportunities we are pursuing in Gov. Jindal’s second term, and I’m totally focused on doing the best job that I can for the people of Louisiana in my current role,” Moret wrote Monday.
When asked whether the governor backs Moret for president, Jindal’s spokeswoman, Shannon Bates replied: “LSU needs to conduct a national search for the best candidate who will keep LSU moving forward.”
One person who has a unique perspective on who could lead LSU going into the future is Jenkins.
The former veterinarian currently holds both president and chancellor positions after the April firing of System President John Lombardi and Chancellor Michael Martin’s decision in May to leave Baton Rouge for the Colorado State University System.
Jenkins, who has held both jobs separately and simultaneously in the past, said Monday the LSU board needs to consider the risks and rewards of combining the two positions and also whether the timing is right.
The LSU System includes the $3.5 billion network of four university campuses, a law school, two medical schools, 10 hospitals and dozens of outpatient medical clinics across Louisiana.
The academic side is looking at a $28 million budget cut this year, with nearly $19 million of that cut being absorbed by the Baton Rouge campus.
LSU’s hospitals need to trim between $40 million and $50 million from their budgets to help fill an $859 million hole in the state Medicaid budget.
Someone with a background in academia “can very rarely” be president Jenkins said. The position calls for a “nontraditional” candidate preferably with a business background, he said.
But the chancellor position almost always needs someone with an advanced degree, strong academic credentials and the ability to run a campus independently, Jenkins said.